The Importance of the Family Table

If there is one word to describe our culture, it’s probably “busy.”

Our schedules are packed from morning to night, and for those of us who are Christians, we would say that the activities of the day are important. This post is not written to question whether we are doing good things. But I do want to ask one question: how often does your family gather around your table and eat together?

Our "Family Table"

Our “Family Table”

The family table is so important, and our nation has basically forgotten it. Think of a typical house on a typical evening. A regular, middle-class house probably has a dining room, but we consider it a “formal” room, so we don’t sit there for supper. Instead, we pile around the TV set and watch something.

Why? Because, on the other evenings, we are trying to line up our schedules to meet at a restaurant, and just sitting on the couch is better than nothing.

Now, I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to watch TV while eating. We do that. Quite often, in fact. It’s also not wrong to go out to eat. It’s fun and provides a little break from routine at times.

But why do so few families regularly meet around a table in the quiet of their own home to eat a meal together? In other words, why is the “family table” a foreign concept in so many homes?

Think back to your childhood. For many of us, we could recall so many meals–and not just at holidays–around our table. We might not remember specific conversations or even specific dishes that were served, but we can remember that life happened around that table.

When we are sitting in a quiet room (not a noisy restaurant) and our eyes are on each other (not on the TV), it is amazing what happens. People open up. Questions can be asked and answered. Compliments are given for the quality of the meal, or how well one of the children set the table. Some of the best “tutoring” in math or spelling can occur when there isn’t a single worksheet to be seen, because there is real conversation going on.

All of this happens simply because we have a meal together. We aren’t talking about fancy meals, either. I think that we have used the excuse that says, “We aren’t fancy around here,” as a way to excuse not eating around the table. Leah is a wonderful cook, but there are quite a few nights when we have soup and sandwiches or I grill us each a plain chicken breast and we have a veggie or two. While she’s a wonderful cook, we don’t try for gourmet-level dishes every single evening! Instead, we eat good meals and enjoy a few quiet minutes together in conversation and, well, just the joy of eating.

It may not be supper at your house, but it may be breakfast. Whatever meal it is, take (rather, make) the time to sit down with no distractions and be together over the joy of a meal. In the next 7 days, if you will do this even 3 or 4 times, I think you’ll be amazed at the difference in tone and patience around your house.

Why?

Alignment of Schedules. Part of the reason so few families eat together is because they are, literally, too busy. But when, in the midst of that busyness, we can all align even 20 minutes for a meal, there is a unity that cannot be replaced.

All Hands On Deck. This should not just be “mom’s job” every day. The kids can help with all parts of the meal, as can dad. From preparing the food to setting the table to cleanup, this is a great way for every person in the family to play a role in getting something important done.

Fewer Distractions. Turn off the TV. Unless you are expecting an emergency call, leave the cell phones in another room. Close the blinds, if you have to. Make this about time where your whole family is “there” for each other with nothing to interrupt.

Shared Values. There is no way to put this in words properly, but eating and communicating shows that you are placing a real value on family togetherness. It doesn’t have to be a trip to Sea World that proves you put an emphasis and value on family. It could, instead, be eating some fish right in your own house!

Story. Talk at the table. Ask good questions. (This is something I need to work on.) Share memories and stories. Let life happen through the telling of tales from both that day and in “yesteryear.”

I know we are all busy, but this is truly important. Don’t get so caught up in the next game, event, club, business deal, or just being tired to miss out on a wonderful blessing that could happen in your own home. It doesn’t cost much, and it isn’t hard, but having a true family table will change your home for the better.

QUESTION: What are you some of your favorite memories or tips about the family table? Share in the comments!

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